For many, the late Sir Jimmy Savile OBE (which he joked stood for Outrageous Behaviour Excess) will always be known best as Jim’ll. As in, Fix It.
And the most famous Fix It of all was filmed at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Scenes of ice-cream smeared cub scouts riding The Revolution rollercoaster while eating and drinking opened and closed credits for the long-running TV series for many years.
The original stunt featuring Sutton-in-Ashfield cub scouts was filmed in 1980, but four years ago grown-up members of the group returned to recreate the ride 27 years on, for UKTV Gold Jim’ll Fix It Strikes Again which revisited children from original shows.
David Cam, Pleasure Beach company secretary and director, helped fix both. He said: “I wrote to the producer originally to say I would be delighted to fix it for Jim to come and test pilot the first looping coaster in Europe, as he came to the Pleasure Beach every year with the Manchester taxi drivers.
“He declined but the scouts did us proud. Those images opened and closed the show for 25 years. We couldn’t have asked for more.”
Jimmy, who died two days before his 85th birthday this weekend, never switched on Blackpool Illuminations, but he lit up the resort.
He fronted the annual summer convoy of Manchester taxis on their day out for underprivileged or disabled children at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. His celebrity status brought publicity but he also actively helped.
“A whole fleet of cabs bringing lots of very deserving kids would arrive,” Mr Cam recalls. “The cabbies came for 40 years until legislation and regulations ended it. Jim would lead the convoy in his Rolls. He was genuinely very fond of Blackpool and what you saw is what you got. He never forgot his roots.”
Jimmy also joined passengers on the first-ever Golden Rail holiday to Blackpool in 1972, going coach by coach to chat with the travellers and meeting up with summer show star Cilla Black on arrival at the old Blackpool North Station on Dickson Road.
Back in the 70s, he arrived in St Annes to raise money for the National Association of Youth Clubs saying: “Young people see life as it should be – not as it is.
“This is why there is such student dissension. This is why we get the great generation gap.”
Charity was his driving force. It’s estimated he raised £40m for good causes over the years. He also helped front the lifesaving clunk-click seatbelt campaign.
In October 1979, he jogged into Blackpool to cover 12 miles on his Tour of Britain £75k fund-raiser which took in 21 towns and cities.
A father and son double act – both former Mayors and councillors – Edmund and Robert Wynne of Blackpool met Jimmy at different stages of their own public service. Edmund recalls Jimmy as being a “very overwhelming character – clad in a gold tracksuit. I liked him as a showman and a Yorkshireman – as one myself. At that time he was more famous for being a DJ than a charity worker.”
And Robert adds: “I ran a marathon and remember Jimmy running in it with all his entourage. I was very fit and went off a lot faster than Jimmy and passed him after a mile or two. I thought what a slow runner he was. At about the 15-mile mark, he ran past me with his entourage still in tow and disappeared into the distance, smoking his cigar and rattling jewellery! He finished over half an hour ahead of me.”
The country’s first pop disc jockey, Sir Jimmy was also a seasoned television presenter, marathon runner, Mensa member, wrestler and fund-raiser.
If Top of the Pops made him famous, Jim’ll Fix It turned him into an household name. When I met him in 1980 he told me he personally helped sort 30,000 letters weekly. When he asked what he could fix for me, I was lost for words. “There you are,” he retorted. “Adults say kids have all the fun but kids have more imagination.”
Jimmy’s Yorkshire roots kept him grounded. He worked in the mines as a Bevin boy, and was once told, after an accident, he would never walk again. “I proved them wrong.”
It made him a zealous health charity campaigner but he shrugged off recognition for such. Bar the OBE. The big one, he told me, because it meant his mum, the Duchess as he called her, could go to Buckingham Palace.
“Not bad for a lad who came from nothing,” he added.
Gazette entertainment editor Robin Duke worked as a voluntary DJ for patients at Leeds General Infirmary in the late 60s.
“Mr Savile pretty much financed it,” he explained. “His unannounced visits were greeted with dread and excitement. Few people got to ‘know’ him but everyone got to admire him – though the sight of a long haired, cigar toting, tracksuit and bling wearing eccentric striding through hospital corridors shocked and delighted unsuspecting patients.
“His advice was to the point: enjoy yourself, be yourself and give them what they want.
“He didn’t expect thanks and brushed off compliments. Charity work wasn’t something he did to keep in the headlines, it was something he had to do and he loved doing. He was a one off.”
Blackpool-based 60s rock musician and music historian Peter Shelton agrees. “Jimmy was the most entertaining man I ever met. I remember this figure in outrageous lime green smoking jacket, cravat, cigar, saying evening guys and gals He was 10 years older than me, eccentric beyond belief and instantly liked. In 1957, he managed the Plaza Ballroom, Manchester, where he started as a DJ. He played rock ‘n’ roll to jive. I became his assistant, playing records, he did the chat; he had all his catchphrases then. He ran a regular singing contest and I surprised him by singing Blue Suede Shoes and won. Jimmy gave me a maroon tie I still have. He will be missed.”
n WHAT are your memories of Sir Jimmy Savile? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or write Gazette Letters, Avroe House, Blackpool Business Park, Blackpool, FY4 2DP.